MEPS 397:113-124 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08143

Lipid biomarkers reveal geographical differences in food supply to the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia)

L. A. Dodds1,3, K. D. Black1, H. Orr1, J. M. Roberts1,2,4,*

1Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban PA37 1QA, UK
2Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 5600 Marvin K. Moss Lane, Wilmington, North Carolina 28409, USA
3Present address: WWF, Baltic House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff CF10 5FH, UK
4Present address: Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Despite its importance as an ecological engineer, little is known about the feeding ecology of the widespread reef framework-forming cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa. This is the first study to compare lipid signatures of L. pertusa from different areas in the North Atlantic using samples from 2 sites in the eastern Atlantic and 2 seamounts in the western Atlantic. Lipid samples were collected in February, May, July and November from the Mingulay reef complex off western Scotland, but no clear seasonal pattern was observed. High lipid content and large wax ester fractions were recorded from all sites, with the highest values recorded at the shallowest site (Mingulay). Here the prevalence of copepod lipid biomarkers—monounsaturated fatty acids 20:1(n-9) and 22:1(n-11) and their fatty alcohols—indicates L. pertusa feeds predominantly on calanoid copepods. At deeper offshore sites, the abundance of the fatty acid 18:1(n-9) and fatty alcohol 16:0 suggest a significant dietary input from non-calanoid copepods. Our results imply that the shallow Mingulay site is likely to receive a greater input of fresh surficial material and a higher abundance of herbivorous calanoid copepods, while at the deeper sites, carnivorous or omnivorous non-calanoid copepods are likely to be more abundant. L. pertusa therefore appears to be an opportunistic feeder capable of taking a variety of zooplankton prey. Further investigation is required to assess site-specific dependence on prey sources.


KEY WORDS: Deep-sea coral · Ecosystem engineer · Fatty acid · Feeding · Trophic level · Copepods · MUFA · PUFA


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Cite this article as: Dodds LA, Black KD, Orr H, Roberts JM (2009) Lipid biomarkers reveal geographical differences in food supply to the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa (Scleractinia). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 397:113-124. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08143

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